March 29th, 2011 12:30 PM by Eileen Denhard
As signs of sunshine start to peek through the fog of winter, we grow nearer to the season marked by the hum of lawnmowers and the smell of freshly churned soil. Spring, and the joys (or chores) of landscaping, are nearly upon us.
Depending on your point of view, gardening and yard work can either be a necessary evil or a cherished escape in the fresh air. But whether you minimalist landscaper or the greenest of thumbs, the added expense of landscaping water bills can be a gut-check every spring and summer. The tips below are just a few ways you can responsibly make it rain without draining your wallet dry.
Setting up your own rain barrel is an easy way to save a significant amount of money each season. For every inch of rain that falls on 750 sq ft of roof, you can collect 450 gallons of water. That means the many areas can gather upwards of a thousand gallons of water every year. That's water you can use to hydrate your houseplants, flowers, vegetable garden, or lawn. In addition to saving you money on water bills, using natural water is environmentally sustainable (cities spend a lot of money and energy treating and pumping water into homes). Plants will also grow better with rainwater compared to chlorinated and fluoridated tap water.
Rain barrels can be fairly easily constructed out of old garbage cans, a few washers, spigot, caulking, and a hose clamp. By connecting one of your home's downspouts to the barrel, you will harness the rain collecting power of the entire roof. If DIY is not your cup of tea, premade rain barrels can be purchased at most home improvement stores, usually ranging from $100-$200. When setting up your rain barrel, make sure to place it on a platform (bricks, etc) roughly a foot or so off of the ground to make it easier to fill up watering cans and also to give more pressure if you decide to hook it up to a hose.
Adding a layer of mulch to landscaped areas doesn't just serve as an aesthetic touch: it's also one of the most effective and environmentally-friendly defenses against weeds that threaten to steal moisture from your plants. Mulch layers are air and water permeable, making them easy to plant into. Organic mulches such as hay, grass clippings, leaves, and shredded bark will also improve the soil quality as they decay over time. Rubber, plastic, or rock/gravel mulch layers can also be used with positive results.
Nothing wastes water quite as much as a needlessly running hose. Attach spray nozzles to all garden hoses to avoid leaving the water running. Spray nozzles also provide you with a little extra "oomph" of water pressure for watering hard to reach plants.
Using sprinklers can be a hassle-free way to water your lawn and plants, but if left on too long they can cost you a bundle while over-saturating your landscaping. Some sprinklers nowadays are come equipped with built-in timing mechanisms and routines. As an alternative, you can install a simple faucet-mounted timer that remembers to shut off the water supply so that you don't have to.
Overwatering your plants and lawn costs you money, isn't good for the plants, and results in a great deal of water runoff. Keep in tune with just how much rainfall (roughly speaking) you yard is soaking in. This can be accomplished either by monitoring local weather sites, or by setting up a simple rain gauge in your yard. Typically, plants need about an inch of water per week during the growing season. If you have sprinklers set on an automatic timers, make sure to adjust them as needed during periods of seasonal rainfall.
Unlike traditional sprinklers, soaker hoses aren't susceptible to water loss through evaporation. Soaker hoses slowly drip water into the soil. When covered over with mulch, they haven proven to be an extremely efficient watering method.